Richard Sherman and others are concerned that nobody wants Colin Kaepernick because the outspoken quarterback is perhaps too outspoken. He quietly protested the national anthem by taking a knee when it was played before games in 2016, and now there’s a belief that teams don’t want that kind of First Amendment exercising in their locker rooms.
I can’t provide any more proof that teams aren’t blackballing Kaepernick than Sherman can that teams are blackballing him. But I do think history indicates that Kaepernick’s on-field performance has more to do with his lack of employment opportunities than anything else. Here are the reasons why.
1. Kaepernick isn’t a good NFL quarterback
Never really was, although he did take the league by storm, a la Robert Griffin III, early in his career. That was back when defensive coordinators and personnel were still shocked by such uniquely athletic quarterbacks and hadn’t yet figured out how to stop them. Then they did, and Kaepernick was exposed.
Once the league caught up to him, it became obvious that Kaepernick doesn’t know how to hit secondary reads or even consistently manage an NFL offense under center. He misses too many easy passes and bails far too early on promising plays.
In his last four seasons, Kaepernick has completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes, averaging just 7.1 yards per attempt. His 85.9 passer rating since the start of 2014 ranks 25th among 29 quarterbacks who have made at least 25 starts in that span.
That is not a small sample. Statistically and empirically, Kaepernick hasn’t performed consistently well since the 2013 playoffs.
2. Michael Vick, Greg Hardy, Adam Jones, Aldon Smith, Chris Culliver
Vick and his associates murdered dogs, Hardy was arrested for choking his girlfriend and throwing her onto a couch full of assault rifles. Jones pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct in connection to a Las Vegas strip club shooting that left a man partially paralyzed. Smith has been arrested at least five times since coming into the league. When asked if there were any gay players on his team, Culliver — who also has a rap sheet — once said this:
“No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do…. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”
All of those guys found work after those incidents, because the NFL is a screwy business in which teams have always been willing to sacrifice moral high ground in order to win. And the better you are, the more likely you are to gain a second, third, fourth, fifth chance.
There’s no other way to explain why those five found new jobs, along with other talented turds. You know, guys like Michael Floyd, Ahmad Brooks, Ray McDonald, Adrian Peterson, Rolando McClain, Albert Haynesworth, Perrish Cox, Kenny Britt, Aqib Talib, Rey Maualuga, Brandon Marshall, Terrell Suggs, Joey Porter, Randy Starks, Frostee Rucker, Santonio Holmes, Kevin Williams, Nick Harper, Tank Williams, Michael Pittman, Muhsin Muhammad, Corey Dillon, Rod Smith and Ray Lewis.
If teams were willing to take the PR hits associated with employing those players, surely some would be willing to sign a guy like Kaepernick, whose jersey sales skyrocketed after he began protesting the anthem last year. Unless, of course, Kaepernick isn’t a good quarterback.
3. He probably thinks he’s a good quarterback
I know — EJ Manuel, Kellen Moore, Mark Sanchez, Zach Mettenberger, Brian Hoyer, Nick Foles, Colt McCoy, Josh McCown, Matt Barkley, Brandon Weeden, Scott Tolzien and Ryan Mallett all have jobs, and none of those guys are very good. In fact, I don’t think anyone would argue that any of the quarterbacks I just listed are better than Kaepernick.
But that doesn’t mean much, because none are viewed as starters, none are paid as starters and none pretend to be starters. They’re on rosters as quarterback insurance, and most of them are regular pocket quarterbacks who can serve as a poor man’s version of the starter they’re backing up.
In that respect, Kaepernick’s unique skill set could be hurting him. He isn’t a carbon copy of anything. He’s the type of player that you build an offense around if he’s good enough. But if he’s not good enough, there isn’t much of a role for him.
Kaepernick is also a bigger celebrity than every backup in the league, which could have him and his agent seeking a contract that will pay him something at least close to the $14.3 million he made in 2016. But nobody listed above is slated to make more than $6 million in 2017, and most will make a hell of a lot less than that.
That same dynamic might also explain why the more accomplished Jay Cutler remains a free agent. But nobody is suggesting he’s been blackballed.
Kaepernick isn’t very good, but for years he’s been led to believe otherwise. In a league where teams refuse to give up on talented turds but can live without semi-talented good guys, that’s the primary reason why he continues to linger on the free agent market.